MUNCH RATING: 5/5
Macaroni Cheese is one of those comfort foods that I really love, but I don’t make it very often as it can take a long time to make from scratch – this took me about 1½ hours! But it was a labour of love that was really worth it, as all the veggies made it really tasty and slightly healthy to offset all that cheese!
CHANGES TO THE RECIPE:
I actually halved the amount of cheese that the original recipe suggested, as 400g seemed really excessive! The addition of all the veggies adds a lot of flavour, so you really don’t need loads of cheese. I also changed/omitted some of the veggies to suit what I had in the fridge. I also used Panko breadcrumbs instead of fresh, as that is what I had to hand.
Steve wasn’t sure if he liked the breadcrumbs, as it reminded him too much of fish pie, which he isn’t keen on. But he said he wouldn’t have known they were breadcrumbs if I hadn’t told him – he thought it was just crispy golden cheese. But I liked the breadcrumbs on top, as they gave the topping a nice contrasting texture. Steve said this was the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever made and he literally licked his plate clean!
- Serves: 4
- Oven temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C
- You will need: a large ovenproof dish, lightly oiled
- 400g macaroni
- 150g streaky bacon, thinly sliced (I used a small packet of pancetta cubes)
- 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced (I used 1 medium onion, finely chopped)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced (I used small orange peppers)
- 150g broccoli florets (I omitted this because I couldn’t be bothered to chop it up!)
- 110g frozen peas
- 100g tinned sweetcorn, drained (I used a whole small tin)
- 60g butter
- 60g plain flour
- 600ml cold semi-skimmed milk
- 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 400g mixture of mature cheddar, red Gloucester and Cheshire cheeses, grated (I used 200g mixture mature and mild cheddar cheeses)
- 3 Tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (I used Panko instead)
- Preheat oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the pack instructions until al dente (my pack said 13 minutes, so I cooked for 8 minutes). Drain well and run under cold water. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a frying pan cook the bacon/pancetta in ½ Tablespoon olive oil until crisp and golden, then remove from the pan and set aside. Add the sliced leek/onion to the pan without adding any extra fat and cook over a medium heat, until very soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened, then throw in the broccoli (if using) and peas. Add a splash of water and cook for 1-2 minutes until the broccoli is still a little crunchy and the peas are just tender. Transfer to the bowl with the macaroni in, mix in the sweetcorn and set aside.
- Make the cheese sauce: place the butter, flour and cold milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil whisking. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, whisking all the time. Once thickened, cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the mustard and ¾ of the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and vegetable mixture and give everything a good stir, then spoon into a large ovenproof dish. Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle over the top of the pasta and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and bubbling.
- The recipe said you can freeze this dish, so I froze half of it without any cheese or breadcrumbs on top. Apparently you can freeze for up to 1 month – we shall see if it tastes just as good once defrosted and reheated! To reheat: bake at Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C for 40-50 minutes.
- This can obviously be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon/pancetta.